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Education Funding

The Dirty Dozen: Ed. Dept. Budget Cuts In-Depth

By Michele McNeil — May 08, 2009 3 min read

The Obama administration has proposed cutting 12 programs from the Department of Education’s budget, for a savings of $550.7 million. By contrast, in his fiscal year 2009 budget, President George W. Bush sought to scrap 47 Education Department programs (such as Even Start, and EdTech state grants) for a potential savings of $3.3 billion. But, as then-President Bush discovered, proposing those cuts and actually getting Congress to go along are two different things.

Let’s look at the programs on the chopping block this time around. Notice that the department plans to keep many of the concepts of these programs (like character education) but absorb them into other programs.

Safe and Drug-Free Schools State Grants: According to the department, this program has not demonstrated effectiveness. Money would be better spent for targeted school safety and drug prevention education activities. The Office of Management and Budget, in its performance-based budget rating system, has not quite declared the program ineffective, but instead says that results have not been demonstrated. This means the program either hasn’t set goals, or hasn’t collected enough data to determine if it’s performing. Savings: $294.8 million.

Even Start: This family literacy program is one of the more high-profile cuts, and may face the biggest barriers. The education department points out that three separate national studies find no benefit to the program. OMB rates Even Start ineffective. Savings: $66.5 million.

College Access Challenge Grants:
The department wants to eliminate this program, which helps increase the number of underrepresented students in higher education, in favor of its own, much bigger, “better structured”, $2.5 billion College Access and Completion Fund. Seems like a name change to me. (The program wasn’t evaluated by OMB.) Savings: $66 million.

Mentoring: This program that provides grants to school districts and community-based organizations for mentoring at-risk youth was found to be ineffective, according to a recent evaluation conducted by the Institute for Education Sciences. OMB declared it duplicative of other programs. Savings: $48.5 million.

Civic Education:
This program provides non-competitive grants for the We the People civics education course and for exchange programs. The department says it will replace this with a broader, competitive grant program. OMB hasn’t evaluated this program. Savings: $33.5 million.

Character Education: Eliminates funding to states and school districts for character education, instead wrapping it into a new initiative that’s part of the Safe and Drug-Free Schools national program, not to be confused with the state program that’s getting the ax. OMB hasn’t evaluated this program. Savings: $11.9 million.

Ready to Teach: Eliminates funding for TV programming that helps improving teaching in core curricular areas. OMB hasn’t evaluated this one either. Savings: $10.7 million.

Javits Gifted and Talented: Read more about this over at the On Special Education blog. Savings: $7.5 million.

National Institute for Literacy: The department wants to cut this nearly 20-year-old program for demonstrating “little success” in providing national leadership on literacy issues (its mission). The OMB said this institute overlaps with the duties of other federal agencies. Savings: $6.5 million.

Academies for American History and Civics: The department says this program, which makes “3 or 4 awards” annually to support workshops for teachers, is too small to make any real difference. And apparently too small for OMB to bother evaluating. Savings: $1.9 million.

Close Up Fellowships: Provides funding for low-income students and teachers to visit Washington, D.C. The department says the foundation that runs the fellowship doesn’t need taxpayer money because it gets plenty from the private sector. Not evaluated by OMB. Savings: $1.9 million.

Foundations for Learning:
The program is too small for its broad mission of helping to promote the emotional, behavioral, and social development of at-risk kids, the department says. Plus, other parts of the budget address these issues. OMB hasn’t evaluated this one either. Savings: $1 million.

Total Savings: $550.7 million.